Endless uncontrollable factors can lead to a sales rep’s failure. Sometimes setbacks happen, and they can be so demoralizing that new sales professionals give up and experienced ones fall into a sales slump. But one of the best tools forbreaking out of a downward sales cycle or overcoming the gloom after losing a big deal is a firm belief in luck. Not random luck, but rather what author, Ph.D., and Johns Hopkins sales professor Joël Le Bon calls provoked luck—unexpected events that come about because a sales rep’s strategic behavior has maximized the opportunities. This luck helps increase the odds of sales success.

Here are five specific behaviors for creating one’s own luck, and in turn, one’s sales success.

  1. Gathering competitive intelligence. The more insight you possess about customers, prospects, competitors, and the market, in general, the more likely you are to "happen upon" pertinent information. It may feel "lucky," but prolific research is the precursor to noticing relevant news and mining valuable intelligence.
  2. Striving for mindfulness. Building on the insight that comes with ongoing research, sales professionals should remain focused on customers' objectives and alert to what is going on within the industry. Being mindful of the context surrounding the client will make you more intriguing and prepare you to act on unexpected opportunities.
  3. Setting high goals. Ambitious goals keep sales professionals forward-looking. Setting yearly, quarterly, monthly, or even weekly goals that are far-reaching help to make us more creative, motivated, and strategic.
  4. Failing better. Failure is a fact of life in the sales profession, so we need to remain positive in the face of failure. Set "failure goals," such as being denied by X number of customers in a given day or month. Doing so recognizes the inevitability of failure within our broader sales efforts and amidst successful sales outcomes.
  5. Changing circumstances. Le Bon writes, "In sales, opportunities lie not among the people you know but among those you don't." He suggests getting out of your routines and comfort zone, meeting new people, doing new things, and expanding your network by going to unusual places and building new alliances.

Le Bon states (based on interviews and his research findings): “Belief in the power of luck seems to boost self-assurance, thereby helping experienced sales professionals remain optimistic in the face of setbacks and assisting inexperienced salespeople in overcoming uncertainty and fear of failure.”

He found that the greater a salesperson’s belief that success is a combination of luck and effort—and that good luck will come along sooner or later—the greater their sales activities. Put another way, the more a sales rep believes that luck contributes to their success, the higher number of phone calls they will make, prospects they will qualify, or competitive intelligence they will gather.

Sales professionals may be reluctant to rely on "luck" because of its uncontrollable nature. What sales professionals can rely on is a belief in provoked luck, the kind of luck that results from arming ourselves with a positive mindset and productive behaviors like those outlined above. This approach will influence whether uncontrollable events become “unlucky” failures or “lucky” occurrences because your preparation and mindset lead to positive outcomes down the road.